A form of vitamin E called tocotrienols could stop the spread of cancer cells.
Most of the research on vitamin E has been on the type called tocopherols, and tocopherols are used in most vitamin E supplements.
However, while studying all eight forms of vitamin E, Japanese researchers found two kinds of tocotrienols (alpha and delta) were responsible for inhibiting DNA polymerase, an enzyme present in DNA replication, while tocopherols had no effect at all.
Scientists also discovered that tocotrienols had the same dampening effect on the spread of cancer cells. That, coupled with their ability to slow down angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels), hinders the spread of cancer to other parts of the body too.
Vitamin E is comprised of two groups of molecules, tocopherols and tocotrienols, each with four forms (alpha-, beta-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol, and alpha-, beta-, gamma- and delat-tocotrienol). Research is beginning to focus on specific tocopherols and tocotrienols, rather than just "vitamin E." Nonetheless, the vitamin E most often referred to and sold in most stores is a synthetic form called dl-alpha-tocopherol.
Tocopherols, which are found in corn, soybeans and olive oil, were the preferred form of vitamin E because they have been widely accepted by the medical community as useful for reducing the risk of heart disease and other serious illness.
However, new research is beginning to emerge that says the tocotrienols, found in palm, rice bran and barley oils, could be the most important part of vitamin E, and a form of vitamin E called full-spectrum vitamin E, which contains a mixture of tocopherols (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma) and tocotrienols (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma), may be needed to protect against disease and provide maximum benefits.
Tocotrienols are especially helpful in fighting disease and may be one of the newest natural tools we have to regulate the development of cancerous tissues.
This study is wonderful news and not totally unexpected, considering a number of other studies have demonstrated the antioxidant effect of tocotrienols to be up to 60 times more effective than alpha tocopherols. Tocotrienols have also been shown to reduce the risk of stroke by reversing atherosclerosis, and to reduce the level of LDL ("bad") cholesterol.
The best way to get vitamin E is by eating the entire natural complex, found in green, leafy vegetables, raw nuts and seeds. This complex contains both tocopherols and tocotrienols, and it also contains selenium and a host of additional, important components, many of which are health promoting in their own right.
If you still feel the need to take a vitamin E supplement, however, use one that most closely mimics the natural kind found in whole foods that contain tocopherols and tocotrienols.